International research revealed that progress and prosperity of any country depends upon the educational choices available to the masses. Education not only trains the young ones to understand and cope with the complexities of economic growth, but also serves as a lever for its enhancement. It guarantees the quality of human life which ensures socioeconomic growth in a country.
Asian countries like South Korea, India and China attained wonderful economic growth in the last few decades mainly educational reforms. In spite of carrying out number of reforms, economic development in Pakistan is still lacking behind than even most of developing nations like Bangladesh.
There seems no clear-cut direction and strength of relationship between education and economic growth, and between levels of education and economic growth in Pakistan. Whether education causes economic growth or economic growth causes education? Which level of education causes to economic growth more and vice versa? Furthermore, education plays an imperative role in capacity building and hastens the growth of whole economy through skills, knowledge and creativity.
The experts revealed that the many-sided impact of education formulates it an essential component for policy outline. Most of the world’s people living in developing countries require to restructure their education in order to improve their productivity in many sectors of the economy by offering highly skilled laborers and dealing with their development needs for speedy industrialization, which is also the need of the hour.
The Government of Pakistan is committed to transform its education system into a high-quality global market demand driven system in accordance with the Goal 4 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which pertains to quality of education in the country. Many measures have been taken at federal and provincial levels to raise the standards of education in terms of quality education as part of their commitment to accomplish Goal 4 of SDGs. These initiatives include: enhancing access to education by establishing new schools, upgrading the existing schools, improving learning environment by providing basic educational facilities, digitization of educational institutions, enhancing resilience of educational institutions to cater for unforeseen situations, promoting distance learning, capacity building of teacher, and improving hiring of teachers, particularly hiring of science teachers to address the issues of science education, etc.
The experts also identified that to attain sustainable growth and also development in Pakistan, it is imperative to continue assistance in poverty reduction and develop social and economic infrastructure; more importantly education.
Over the years, the unsustainable economic growth is worrisome in Pakistan. The factors responsible for this situation were unfavorable economic growth, political unrest, negligence in education sector, worse law and order situation and poor attraction for the foreign investors. The unsustainable economic growth can be related with sharp rise in inflation, escalating fiscal deficit, mounting foreign debt and debt servicing, weak foreign demand for low quality products in Pakistan, stumpy level of human and physical capital, adverse weather situations, and political flux along with many other factors. It is beyond doubt that education is a significant contributor to economic prosperity.
To attain a strong growth, education should be given top priority more mainly in developing countries. The most significant impact of the education can be witnessed into two ways in developing countries.
Firstly, education will offer people with power of decision-making which could instill gender equality. Secondly, educating the people of developing country means to make more sustainable choices which will create a better world to live in.
According to the Labour Force Survey 2020-21 in Pakistan, literacy rate trends shows 62.8 percent in 2020-21 (as compared to 62.4 percent in 2018-19), more in male (from 73.0 percent to 73.4 percent) than female (from 51.5 percent to 51.9 percent). Area-wise analysis suggest literacy increase in both rural (53.7 percent to 54.0 percent) and urban (76.1 percent to 77.3 percent). Male-female disparity seems to be narrowing down with time span. Literacy rate gone up in all provinces, Punjab (66.1 percent to 66.3 percent), Sindh (61.6 percent to 61.8 percent), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (52.4 percent to 55.1 percent) and Balochistan (53.9 percent to 54.5 percent).
In Pakistan, despite the provision of free and compulsory education, out of pocket expenses and the opportunity cost of sending children to schools are higher than making children an earning member of the household. This results in a low school enrollment rate, low transition rate and low retention rate.
As per the Human Development Report (2018), Pakistan needs another 60 years to get all children of school going age into school. Moreover, an astonishing 81 percent of the public schools in Pakistan are primary schools, hence posing a huge challenge in terms of retention and transition of students at the post-primary level.
In last I would like to mention here, literacy showed very strong impact on economic growth which shows the positive sign for sustainable economic growth and strengthens the education return of economy to some extent. It is suggested that the measures should be adopted to enhance the primary education system in Pakistan, so that a universal enrolment rate in primary education may be achieved in near future. In addition, measures may also be taken to enhance the literacy rate in the country to boost the economic growth in Pakistan.